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Causes of Summer outages

Crews work to replace a broken pole. July 25, 2017 

A high level of storm activity has led to an increased number of outages in North Georgia EMC’s service area during recent months. According to the National Weather Service, in the first six months of 2017, precipitation levels reached 80% of the total rainfall for all of 2016. 

The weather patterns have resulted in several challenges, including more downed trees out of right-of-away, many which brought power lines down with them.  While NGEMC’s robust vegetation management program includes clearing 6,400 miles of powerline on a five year cycle and clearing hot spots between cycles, tall trees off right-of-way create risk.  Substantial amounts of rainfall also result in fast vegetation growth, increasing the overall cost to maintain the power system. 

While storms move through the service area very quickly, they often leave damages that take significant time to repair.  For example, on March 21, in a couple of hours, a wave of thunderstorms left more than 22,000 members, scattered across seven counties, without power.  Restoration involved repair work at more than 200 actual line locations, including 40 broken poles.  Each damaged location must be identified and assessed during the restoration process.  NGEMC crews and contractors worked around the clock for more than 48 hours to restore power to all individuals following the brief, but intense, March storms. 

Pole broken in half.Because spring and summer storms tend to happen in the evening, outage restoration often occurs in the dark while storms are still in progress.  As you can imagine, these conditions add a degree of complexity and challenge to what is, at best, extremely hard and dangerous work.

Outage restoration repairs often include replacing broken poles or other equipment, clearing debris from lines, rebuilding spans of line, etc... Line crews rely on the outage management system to pinpoint the suspected area and from there, crews search for the actual cause. Members sometimes question why a utility truck drove through the area without stopping or why there are no trucks in a particular neighborhood during an outage.  The source of a cluster of power outages may be miles away and in some cases may be off the road, requiring crews to walk the line, literally, in search of the problem. 

And, as if weather and vegetation do not provide enough challenges, several other factors also cause outages. Vehicle accidents, birds, squirrels, snakes, even ants in a transformer, etc...cause their fair share of outages, too.  Finding Waldo is nothing compared to finding a snake on a transformer in the middle of the night. 

Snake found on power equipment during outage restoration. Squirrel found on transformer during an outage restoration.If you see a situation such as a broken pole or a tree on a line, please stay away from the area to ensure your safety and report the issue to us.  Likewise, to help prevent outages, if you notice vines growing up a guy wire or branches brushing a powerline, please give us a call or send us a picture along with the location.   

For more information, please visit our power outage Q&A page. As always, we appreciate our members for your patience during outage situations and the kind words you share regarding the crews.

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